... I thought I had lost him forever
One Saturday night in mid- September, I opened the door a crack, as I had done every morning and night for the past seven years so Friskie could sniff the air and look around. This ritual was to compensate for agreeing not to let her out when I adopted her from the Humane Society.
This particular night, she just pushed her way through the opening and took off into the night with me in hot pursuit. Every time I got close to her, she ran away. Finally, she ran into the back yard where it was pitch black. I ran and got a flashlight and she did stop and turn towards me when I flashed the light on her. But, as soon as I approached her, she took off into the wooded area out back. So, I gave up.
Guilt and fear took over. Guilt because I had had her declawed and fear because, without claws, she had no way to protect herself and no way to get food. In addition, without any tags, how would I ever get her back. I was frantic. I had no idea what to do or where to start.
After a restless night, I called the animal officer and left Friskie's description and my telephone number. I then called Claire at the Humane Society and proceeded to take her advice. I had posters made with pictures of Friskie, her description and my telephone number to post around the neighborhood. I left food out during the day. Michael, the young man next door, who was working for MTV for the summer, even got the poster on MTV.
Even as I put up the posters, I wondered how much good they would do because Friskie is the biggest scaredy-cat I've ever met and also she's not people friendly. She won't even let me pick her up. I just couldn't imagine her going up to a stranger to beg for food. She'd starve.
But why did she take off? I'd been performing this ritual for seven years! Was it because I put her on a low calorie diet two and one-half years ago on the advice of her veterinarian and she had had it? One of my friends thought that was it. But, it might have been just the dark night that beckoned to her. I'll never know.
Every day I put out food and water and every night I took them in. I walked along the edge of the wooded area calling her name, but there was no response. A whole week went by and hope of seeing Friskie again was fading. On Sunday morning I realized I had forgotten to take in the food and water on Saturday night. I went down and looked and the food was gone! I left a fresh dish of food and water and, before I left for church, I checked. The dish was empty! That must be Friskie, I thought, and she'll be expecting to be fed again about 4:30 p.m. I left another dish about 3:30 p.m. but at 4:30 p.m. it was still there.
I checked again when it began to get dark. The dish was empty! I looked around and lo and behold Friskie streaked by me, into the yard next door and right into a hole in their back fence. I called her name as I ran after her. I stood talking to the hole and in a minute out popped her head and then it popped right back in again. I kept talking and slowly she emerged. I put out my hand and she let me pat her, but pick her up? - no way! I beckoned her to come with me and she did. I let her get ahead of me and grabbed her. I let her down in the cellar and she ran up the stairs and was waiting for me in the kitchen - for food, of course. She was thin and her meow was a dry crackly sound, but she was still my beautiful Friskie.
Someone told me that cats who run away from home never go very far. I don't think Friskie ever left the back yard. The fact that she was still around when I fortunately forgot to bring the food and water in that Saturday night indicates to me that she stayed hidden in the daytime and only came out at night. Once she discovered the food, however, she followed our usual daily routine. Even her rather dramatic return, streaking past me and hiding, was something she loves to do. She really hid this time. Usually, she hides by standing in front of a chair or under a bed with her wagging tail sticking out.
Now Friskie is back! No more diet and no more ritual. She's now on a "SENIOR CAT" diet and is eating happily into a fat cat. She still gets to sniff the air and look around but now there's always a screen between her and the allure of outdoor adventures.
January 4, 2002